Horsham basketball phenom Mitch Creek has spoken of missing his sisters' weddings, sacrificing time with loved ones and relationships, and forgoing countless "big things" to achieve his dream of playing in the NBA.
The former Horsham Hornet was in advanced talks to return to America at the end of the 2019-20 NBL season, before an untimely knee injury delayed the move and the COVID-19 pandemic put it on ice indefinitely.
With the Australian basketball season on hold, Creek used his spare time to reflect on his career and his dream of returning to the NBA.
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Creek's American venture began in late 2018 when he spent pre-season with the Brooklyn Nets, and subsequently signed on with their feeder club in the G League, the Long Island Nets.
"I was the stray sheep in the pack. I was the Aussie that came in with a funny accent," he told Long Island Nets' media.
"My energy coming in was very mixed. I didn't know where I'd fit in. I didn't know how I would be perceived.
"But, the group was amazing. We had a very easy bunch of guys and girls who worked at the organisation who made it a very smooth transition for me."
Creek played 22 games with the Long Island Nets, before the NBA came knocking again.
At the start of 2019, the 28-year-old signed the first of two ten-day contracts with the Brooklyn Nets.
"The initial call is always the one that resonates the most. The first time for anything is always the most enjoyable and always the most surreal," he said.
"It's something that you dream for and it's something that you sacrifice so much for.
"You sacrifice time with your family, relationships, loved ones. I've missed both my sisters' weddings. I've missed children in my family being born.
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"You miss all these big things. You put in so much time and effort and you wonder: 'is it ever going to happen? Am I ever going to get there?'."
Creek's NBA debut came in a win against the New York Knicks, only days after signing with the Nets.
"Over time, the dream never died. It never faded or wavered," he said.
"That phone call, I'm sitting there sobbing like I lost all my candy and I'm three-years-old. That joy and happiness I felt inside, I still feel inside from that moment.
All of the feels.— The NBL (@NBL) January 26, 2019
Let’s be honest, it's hard to find words when you get the phone call you’ve been waiting your whole life for.
This is the moment @BrooklynNets GM Trajan Langdon told Mitch Creek he was about to realise his NBA dream.#NBLxNBA @CreekMitchell pic.twitter.com/H8qcN99tU3
"I'll never forget that and my family will never forget that as well.
"I was just absolutely blessed to have that opportunity and then relive it a few times. But, it makes you want it so much more after you get it and that's the only thing I focus on now."
Creek was de-listed by the Nets and returned to the G-League to help guide his team to the eastern conference finals.
However, on the eve of the Long Island Nets' championship tilt, higher honours came calling again.
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The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the 6'6" forward on a ten-day contract.
"That was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," he said.
"We'd just won and got into finals and had a few drinks to celebrate that night. We celebrated knowing that we had a week off and then we could attack finals.
"Then, you get a call saying: 'we want to bring you in on a contract to a different team, and you've got to leave like today or tomorrow'.
"That was a very hard choice. You put in so much time and effort. You put in all the sacrifices. You've moved overseas and your one goal is to win and bring success to an organisation.
"I felt like I helped out, but to miss out on that was a really really hard thing."
Creek has committed to the South East Melbourne Phoenix for the delayed 2020-21 NBL season - which is expected to start in mid-January.
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